The very first story with a new Doctor I presume is cause for celebration, and Tom Baker is revealed in ‘Robot’ – a somewhat stock-standard story with the old ‘mad scientist’ premise built on the King Kong legend. Terrance Dicks put his pen to this one, perhaps the first story he has written outright in the many years he’d been involved in the show (since Patrick Troughton’s time).
When you look at the story it is full of wacky ideas, nutjobs and not-particularly convincing robot. It’s far from the best Doctor Who story, it’s not particularly special and perhaps somewhat predictable. But what do you want from a story with the main goal to introduce your new leading man? It succeeds in showing Tom Baker in several lights and pique your interest in this new Doctor, with a keen eye to see what he will do.
Jon Pertwee was stoic and reliable, but Tom Baker immediately presents as unpredictable. He has a charm melded with a comic turn but an ability to be serious when required and even angry. He presents us with a full gamut of emotions in his first story. He throws himself into the role with great gusto!
|Winters shows the robot to Sarah|
A new addition to the cast – Ian Marter as Harry Sullivan. An excellent character, fantastically played. Almost seemed to be there to be the straight man to the Doctor! There is a great sequence where Tom and Ian are skipping and it gets faster and faster. It must have taken a lot of practice to get right! Sarah Jane Smith is also well written, and the robot, played by resident big man Michael Kilgarriff, becomes attached to Sarah much as King Kong did to.... well I don’t know the lady’s name, but it’s a great instance of borrowing from a classic.
The centre of it all is Think-Tank, a government-funded scientific research core who seem to have gone a bit off the rails thanks to Miss Winters and Mr Jellicoe who are in charge. The plan to gain control of the Earth’s nuclear weapons to take
I did enjoy Sarah Jane’s attempts to interview the people at the SRS – Scientific Reform society. People dressed as Nazis believing they are in the best position to tell people how to live their lives, when in fact they were just a bunch of nerds. Was this the show’s first parody of its fans?
Last but not least I want to mention the rather wonderful performance of Edward Burnham as Professor Kettlewell. He played a similar character in ‘The Invasion’, but took ‘crazy old scientist’ to a new level in ‘Robot’, especially teasing out all his hair at right angles. Wonderful stuff. Fun story.